No. 3 Aggies defeat No. 7 Ole Miss for spot in SEC Tourney Title Game
Hoover, Ala. – Ole Miss was in the driver’s seat against Texas A&M Saturday afternoon inside Hoover Met Stadium, but, unfortunately for the Rebels, the wheels fell off in the final two innings.
Ole Miss held a comfortable 8-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning until No. 3 seed Texas A&M (44-14) scored five runs in the top of the eighth to take a two-run lead and hold on to defeat the seventh-seeded Rebels (43-17), 12-8, for one of the two spots in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship Sunday afternoon.
The Aggies will take on No. 4 Florida for the title following the Gator’s 1-0 victory over LSU Saturday afternoon.
“Very proud of our toughness this game,” Texas A&M’s coach Rob Childress said of his team’s come-from-behind win. “Giving up five runs in the third inning all with two outs and being able to overcome that was big. I can’t say enough about our guys for staying in the game.
“And then we were able to have a five run inning of our own later in the game.”
In the top of the eighth – with Wyatt Short on the mound for Ole Miss – the Aggies’ Michael Barash singled through the left side to score Boomer White. Jonathan Moroney’s single up the middle scored Ryne Birk—and then came the dagger in the heart of Rebels everywhere as Walker Pennington’s three-run homer gave the Aggies a 10-8 lead.
Texas A&M scored two more runs in the final inning to basically seal the win and move the Aggies into Sunday’s championship game.
Short (2-2), who was pulled in the top of the ninth and replaced by Connor Green, gave up six runs on four hits on a 31-pitch count. Of Short, Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said: “He didn’t have his best command.”
“I’ve said a few times this week that it’s a very humbling league,” Bianco continued. “And A&M is so, so good. We left the door open a bit, and they ran through it.”
For most of the afternoon, the Aggies struggled to keep up with Ole Miss’ offensive attack – 17 Rebels’ hits to be exact.
However, it was the Aggies who took control at the beginning of the game, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. Barash doubled down the right field line to score White. Birk then scored after Moroney reached base on a fielding error.
The Rebels were not deterred and in the bottom second found their offense in the form of a single from Errol Robinson that scored Ryan Olenek. Texas A&M quickly responded in the top of the third with White crossing the dish after Joel Davis reached base on a fielding error.
But in the bottom of the third, Ole Miss appeared to take full control—and its raucous fans in attendance were excited.
First, Olenek’s single through the left side scored Tate Blackman. Kyle Watson then singled to right centerfield to score Olenek and Colby Bortles. Watson, then, headed to home plate after Robinson singled up the middle.
Robinson was the hot man for his team’s offense, going 4-for-6 at bat. Four of Robinson’s teammates (Blackman, Olenek, Perdzock, Watson and J.B. Woodman) had two hits apiece.
“I thought our kids were terrific offensively,” Bianco said. “I thought we were great on the bases and taking the extra base.”
The Rebels quickly led 6-4 after the first three innings, but the Aggies wouldn’t go away. Birk’s fly-out to left field scored Austin Homan to trim Texas A&M’s deficit to one. Then in the bottom of the fifth, Robinson gave the Aggies more reason to worry as he singled to right field to score Watson.
In the bottom of the seventh, Robinson singled to right field (advanced to second on a throw) to score Holt Perdzock. It looked as if Ole Miss was on its way to Sunday’s championship game—until the Aggies’ exploded in the eighth and took the lead for good.
The Rebels’ offense scored 36 runs on 48 hits throughout the SEC Tournament, averaging nine runs and 12 hits per game.
Regionals will start next week, but Bianco realizes questions will continue to be asked with respect to where he feels Ole Miss should be seeded in the national tourney. Robinson had one answer about if his team should be a national seed: “I’m not in the room with the guys who decide all that mess. I think we deserve one.”
Saturday’s loss to the Aggies was Ole Miss’ first loss of the season when leading after six innings (38-1). The Rebels have played in the two-highest scoring games in this year’s tournament and three of the top five. Robinson posted his 13th multi-hit game in the last 33 games. He has recorded a hit in 28 games during that stretch.
Lartigue suffered a mild concussion in the middle innings and came out in the eighth. Bianco didn’t have a complete diagnosis of Lartigue’s injury, but was concerned about his health and decided to take him out as a precaution.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)